By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 is a specific command for a weekly collection for poor saints in Jerusalem. How can this be used as general authority for a weekly collection that is not used to help needy saints, but is used to pay the preacher, missionaries, utilities, literature, etc.?
Reply: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay be him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1,2).
There are several things to consider in these verses. This collection, which was to be made upon the first day of the week, was specifically for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The convenience of this collection as stated in the latter part of verse two, “that no collections be made when I come,” precludes the idea that the collection was laid by at home. If this were true, gatherings or collections would have to be made. The purpose of the common treasury was to avoid such. James Macknight, in his commentary on the Apostolic Epistles, makes this appropriate comment: “The apostle’s meaning is, that every first day of the week each of the Corinthians was to separate, from the gains of the preceding week, such a sum as he
could spare, and put it into the treasury; that there might be no occasion to make collections when the apostle came” (Vol. 1, p. 291). The expression, “lay by him in store,” suggests a treasury. Thesaurizon, the Greek word that is translated “in store,” is a present participle which means literally, “putting into the treasury.” The laying up in a common treasury was done upon the first day of the week because this was the time that Christians assembled for worship (Acts 20:7).
The contribution in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 was to relieve the poor saints in Jerusalem, as we have noted (see v. 3, also Rom. 15:26). The church at Corinth was instructed as to how to meet a specific need. Other passages show clearly that churches supported gospel preachers (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15,16). As the church at Corinth met a need, so it would logically follow that other needs of the church would be met in the same way – by members contributing upon the first day of the week, the time when the saints assembled. When Paul took wages from other churches (2 Cor. 11:8), it is reasonable to conclude that the money was supplied from the treasuries of these different churches and sent directly to him. Thus, there is a pattern in the New Testament for churches meeting their needs. Corinth relieved the need of destitute saints in Jerusalem by contributing money that was laid up in the treasury upon the first day of the week. Other churches supplied the need of Paul by supporting him in the same way. The Scriptures therefore authorize the local church to meet its legitimate needs by means of a contribution upon the first day of the week. Thus it can support preachers, pay utility bills, purchase songbooks, communion supplies, provide a building and purchase Bible class material. This authority is established by churches meeting their needs (1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15,16).
We take note that there is no scriptural authority for local churches to do their work through a sponsoring church. We do not make a demand for a “detailed” description in the New Testament when we reject the sponsoring church, church support of human institutions, etc., but we do make a demand for their scriptural authority. We have book, chapter and verse for local churches meeting their proper needs, but we do not have book, chapter and verse for a sponsoring church and church support of human institutions. The former is authorized by the New Testament but the latter is not.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 14, p. 421
July 17, 1986